Pennsylvania lawmakers may be walking back on legislation that, in 2017, ended many restrictions on the sale and use of fireworks in the state.
The state House of Representatives on Wednesday voted 160-38 to advance a bill to restrict the use of fireworks to 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. year-round — with the exceptions of July 2, 3 and 4 and Dec. 31, when they could be used until 1 a.m.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Farry, a Bucks County Republican, would also impose harsher penalties for the improper sale or illegal use of fireworks in the state.
“It sounds like a war zone the week of July 4th,” Farry told the Associated Press. “We get a lot of complaints from pet owners, veterans and parents of young kids.”
Many firefighters have argued that the 2017 law led to more fires and fire deaths in the commonwealth. Farry, a firefighter, said the proposed law is designed to let people “still shoot fireworks with responsible controls.”
The bill doesn’t restrict the types of fireworks that can be purchased in Pennsylvania, but imposes some limits on their use and increases penalties for violation.
If passed by the state Senate, the bill would give local municipalities more authority to ban the use of fireworks if the area does not have a site where they can be used safely. The bill also would mandate that anyone using fireworks would have to give three days’ notice before fireworks could be used near a facility where animals are housed.
According to the Associated Press, the bill also changes the use of a 12% levy put on fireworks above the standard 6% sales tax. The current law directs 2% to emergency services and 10% to the state’s general fund. The bill would divert all 12% — approximately $10 million to $12 million annually — to various emergency services in Pennsylvania.
Before the law was changed in 2017, fireworks that could be purchased or used by Pennsylvania residents were limited largely to sparklers and other small novelties. The change permitted the sale of any fireworks that meet federal consumer standards.
However, the increased use of fireworks across the country have been drawing noise and safety complaints in recent years.
How did they vote?
According to online records, 88 House Democrats and 72 House Republicans voted in favor of of the bill. Only one Democrat and 37 Republicans voted nay.
State Rep. Russ Diamond (R-102nd), who voted for the bill, was unavailable for comment due to a medical issue.
State Rep. Frank Ryan (R-101st) voted against the bill, although he told LebTown he doesn’t oppose restricting the use of fireworks in Pennsylvania.
“There was one reason only” for voting nay, he said. “It makes violation of the law a felony. I felt the penalty was far too severe for the issue.”
Ryan noted that, prior to 2017, a fireworks charge was a misdemeanor in the commonwealth.
“By the way,” he added, “I was one of the few people who voted against the fireworks bill” in the 2017. Both the 2017 law and the current bill proposal, he said, “are not well thought through.”
State Senator Chris Gebhard, whose legislative district includes all of Lebanon County, could not immediately be reached for comment on his views on the bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The bill has not yet been scheduled for discussion on the Senate floor.
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